Neurodivergent graduates: thrive at KPMG

Last updated: 31 Jul 2023, 09:53

Discover why KPMG has become a top employer for neurodivergent students and graduates.

KPMG's employwe branding image: three female graduates (one carrying a laptop) walk alongside a blue wall with pink splatters

KPMG actively supports neurodivergent students and graduates to achieve their career ambitions; it is committed to creating a working environment in which everyone can ‘come as they are’ and thrive, whatever their background.

‘We absolutely welcome applications from neurodivergent candidates,’ confirms Madeline, student recruitment assistant manager at KPMG. ‘We want to recruit from the widest possible talent pool that we can. It's really important to us that we have diversity of thought within the business to create great outcomes for our clients. We also want our firm to represent the communities we serve; it’s the right thing to do to create a fairer future for all.’

Why apply to KPMG?

Jonny, a third-year audit graduate trainee who is dyslexic, applied to KPMG because of the breadth of career development opportunities and prospects it offered.

‘The ACA accountancy qualification with the ICAEW drew me to the audit graduate programme initially, along with the career opportunities that it unlocks,’ he says. ‘KPMG offer a really supportive study package and they’ll also give you a good amount of time off to study for those exams.’

The work has surpassed his expectations. ‘I’ve had a huge range of work in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and telecoms. I’m currently working on wind farms, which is super interesting.

Essentially, each year companies have to get their financial accounts checked. My role, as part of a team, is to go through the numbers and see whether they’re accurate. However, soon I’ll be starting a six-month secondment in another department – an opportunity that is another huge benefit of working at KPMG.’

While he expected a good range of opportunities, he hadn’t quite realised exactly how friendly and supportive everyone in the firm would be. This has ensured a work culture in which he can be himself. ‘In the application process, when you speak to people, it makes you even more sure you want to join the firm. You get a real sense of what people here are like,’ he says. ‘There’s a culture of people wanting you to do well and of providing the tools to help you thrive. I mentioned my dyslexia at the time I joined and the firm went through an occupational health assessment with me to ensure I got any help, advice and adjustments I needed.’

This supportive culture extends to everyone within the firm, as Madeline has found. ‘There is a culture of excellence – but this is through making us all excellent, rather than being solely about individuals,’ she says. ‘Every time I have asked for support, or even before I realised that I needed support, there have been people around me offering it.’

Meet Madeline and Jonny

Madeline is a student recruitment assistant manager and Jonny is an audit graduate trainee.

LinkedIn-style headshots of Madeline and Jonny, the contributors to this article

A choice of programmes that make the most of your strengths

There is no doubt that KPMG is a great place to start your career in business − whether you specialise in Audit , Consulting , Deal Advisory , Tax & Law , or Technology & Engineering. Before applying, Madeline advises that you take your time to choose your specialism and don’t automatically assume that a role isn’t for you.

‘Come in with an open mind as much as you can because there is support we can give you. We want all our people to learn for a lifetime; you might assume, for example, that working in a particular area involves a lot of face-to-face communication with clients (which might be something that you feel you struggle with or feel less confident about) but there might actually be less of this than you expect. We can also explore alternative ways to communicate. You might even decide that there is something that you want to do in order to challenge yourself, with appropriate support,’ she says. ‘Use the student recruitment team and contact KPMG employees on LinkedIn and say that you, for example, are torn between two graduate programmes and you think your strengths lie more in one direction. We can discuss the options with you.’

Don’t assume that your skills won’t be a good match and self-select out from applying without checking your assumptions with people from the firm first; different perspectives are valued within the firm and support can be given to make the most of your strengths. It is partly for this reason that KPMG is running Thrive events, which connect potential applicants with KPMG colleagues with similar backgrounds and experiences. The focus is all about being your authentic self at work and the support that's available.

Adjustments for neurodivergent graduates in the application process

‘I know that many neurodivergent students and graduates – along with students with disabilities or other long-term conditions – do worry about what disclosing a condition might mean for their application. I can reassure you that it won’t impact your application in any way,’ says Madeline.

KPMG assesses every application on its merits. Making adjustments to the application process isn’t about ‘making a special case’ for an applicant or patronising them. It is simply about removing potential barriers so that all candidates can be assessed fairly.

‘We’ve taken care to simplify our recruitment process on our website to make it clear what to expect. We will ask you before every single element of the assessment process to let us know if there's anything we can do to help. You can contact us via phone or email and we will be in touch to discuss your requirements with you,’ says Madeline.

‘We do not need a formal diagnosis or to know your medical history. Our top priority is to remove barriers so that all applicants are assessed on a level playing field,’ she continues.

Common adjustments include:

  • providing further information around the assessments beforehand so that candidates are comfortable with the process
  • providing an alternative method of assessment for the early online assessments – for example, conducting a phone interview instead
  • recruiters informing the interviewers/assessors of a condition so that a candidate doesn’t have to: for example, some candidates wish the recruitment team to tell their interviewer that they have difficulty maintaining eye contact, so that the interviewer doesn’t expect them to
  • providing additional breaks during the assessments or moving the breaks to avoid overwhelming the candidate.

This is not an exhaustive list. ‘All adjustments are made on a case-by-case basis and tailored to the individual. We know not everyone with the same condition will need the same adjustments,’ says Madeline.

Practical support for neurodivergent employees in the workplace

As shared above, there is plenty of support on offer at KPMG to ensure that you have the tools to help you build a successful career. You can disclose your condition to KPMG at any point. ‘It may be that sometimes you don’t feel you would benefit from any adjustments during the recruitment process but know you would when you join the business. Waiting until when you join, or are in the workplace, is absolutely fine,’ Madeline stresses.

During the onboarding process, you will be able to raise any additional needs with the early careers development team or, once you start your role or even as you continue in your role, you will be able to raise it with the cohort of managers who are there to look after your development: your performance manager, your performance leader or the members of the early careers development team who coordinate your professional qualifications (if applicable).

In Jonny’s case, his occupational health discussion led to him having additional time for his ACA professional examinations, which was, in his words, ’a gamechanger‘. Other adjustments include providing specialist software or equipment, such as noise-blocking headphones. Flexible and hybrid working options are available and the KPMG London office has a dedicated quiet space for working.

But, again, the culture is people led. Alongside your performance manager, whom Jonny and Madeline say is your go-to contact for any working life matters or wellbeing concerns, there are the employee networks.

‘I’m part of KPMG’s neurodiversity community. I’m actually on the committee for it, which is exciting as it’s allowed me to get involved with projects and teams outside of audit,’ says Jonny. ‘I’m currently setting up a buddying scheme within the community to provide additional support to colleagues. We have put on a series of events for Neurodiversity Celebration Week, where our chief executive Jon Holt spoke. We also offer counselling and performance coaching, which sits outside the firm, where you can get advice on how to use your neurodiversity as a “superpower”.’

Another role of the networks is to promote best practice and understanding across the business, so being an active member is a great way to get your voice heard. They are also open for allies to join. Other networks include ‘Be Mindful – Mental Health and Wellbeing’ and ‘WorkAbility – KPMG’s Disability Network’.

Doing the right thing

What makes KPMG stand out as a great place to work? ‘The firm wants to do, and holds itself accountable for doing, the right thing – whether that’s for the people who work for it, the communities we work in or the planet,’ says Madeline. ‘For example, we have a target to be net zero by 2030 and we have a target for there to be 15% disability representation at partner and director level by 2030.’

For Jonny, that commitment goes alongside offering stimulating work. ‘One of the main appeals of the firm is that you’re always progressing. You’re continuously challenged. And obviously, with that, comes a bit more pressure, but that’s where a lot of the enjoyment and excitement come from. It’s a high-energy, fun, social atmosphere and I really do enjoy it.’

Start your career at KPMG

Find out more about KPMG and its student and graduate opportunities on its career website. It also has a page dedicated to its commitment to neurodivergent applicants and employees.

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